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Nation in brief

Pentagon revisits sex assault inquiries

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 21, 2003

DENVER -- A decade after a series of rape charges sparked a major effort to protect female cadets at the Air Force Academy, the Pentagon on Thursday launched an investigation into a spate of new cases in which female cadets said they were disciplined, ostracized or forced to leave the academy after reporting sexual assaults by fellow students.

Female cadets who reported being raped by male upperclassmen within the past two years have said they were warned by fellow cadets that they could face official discipline for underage drinking and "fraternization" -- that is, personal relations with a military superior -- if they brought formal charges against the men involved. Some cadets said they were told that assault in a social setting, such as a date or a party, is so difficult to prove that charges against the men involved would be futile.

2 officers killed, 3 hurt in La. arrest shootout

ALEXANDRIA, La. -- Two police officers were killed and three others were wounded Thursday in a shootout that erupted as police tried to arrest a suspect in the ambush of another officer, authorities said.

The man in the house also died in the exchange of gunfire. No names were released.

The wounded officers, members of the city SWAT team, all were in stable condition, authorities said.

After stampede, Chicago seeks to shut down club

CHICAGO -- The city wants to permanently shutter a nightclub where 21 people died in a stampede and prevent its owner from doing business in Chicago.

City Corporation Counsel Mara Georges on Wednesday initiated administrative proceedings to revoke licenses that allowed Le Mirage Studio Ltd., which owns the Epitome restaurant and second-floor E2 nightclub, to keep the businesses open. Georges also wants to bar the president of Le Mirage, Dwain J. Kyles, from holding any other city license.

President Bush signs $397.4-billion spending bill

CRAWFORD, Texas -- President Bush signed a $397.4-billion government-wide spending bill Thursday that contains billions more dollars than he had sought for the budget year that began Oct. 1.

Bush complained that Congress was spending too much in areas such as drought relief for farmers and not enough on his priorities.

The bill pays for every agency except the Pentagon for the 2003 budget year that ends this Sept. 30.

With his signature Thursday evening, the president ended a bitter stalemate that began last year when he demanded lower spending than many in Congress wanted.

Church, sex abuse victims will try to settle suits

BOSTON -- The Boston Archdiocese and lawyers suing the church in more than 400 sexual abuse cases filed a request in court Thursday seeking a 90-day hold on all litigation while they pursue a settlement.

If Superior Court Judge Constance Sweeney approves the request, both sides will suspend any action on the lawsuits and try to work out an agreement through mediation.

Explosion, fire at Ky. factory injure 26

CORBIN, Ky. -- An explosion and fire ripped through an insulation plant Thursday, sending black smoke spiraling across the southern Kentucky countryside and injuring 26 workers, 11 critically.

The cause of the explosion at CTA Acoustics was not immediately known. State inspectors were sent to the site.

Earlier this month, the state labor agency proposed to cite the company for an allegedly serious violation involving safety guards on machinery, agency spokesman Eddie Jacobs said.

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